American Sniper vs. God’s Honor

I saw that a new movie came out called “American Sniper.” Many of my brothers and sisters in Christ have talked highly about the movie on social media and even in the workplace. Some said it was “awesome,” something they, “really got into,” and still others said, “it was an incredible flick.” I had the idea to go see the movie with my wife. But before we go to any movie, we like to check a website called, “Kids in Mind.” This website tells you all about what is in the movie as far as nudity, profanity and the like. When I went to check out this movie, I found that there was plenty of profanity.

But it’s a war movie…there’s going to be profanity right? I understood that idea, but this was the part that really got me: According to the website 7 (SEVEN) different times the Lord’s name is taken in vain by using – GD. There are apparently more than a half dozen more what they claim, “religious exclamations.”

But it’s a war movie…there’s going to be profanity…right?

When I saw that the Lord’s name was taken in vain so many times it really set me back. I was reminded of the passage in Malachi that says, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect? Says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name.”

What has happened to us that we would actually delight in a movie that takes the name of the LORD and misuses it? Where is God’s honor…IN OUR LIVES? What does it say about our testimony as, “a chosen people…a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9) of God when we agree that it is acceptable to take the money that God has given us to steward and use it to hear His name blasphemed?

Please understand me, I am not judging anyone, nor do I wish to point fingers. I will be the first to tell you that I have fallen in this same manner…many times. I guess this is a heart check…for all of us.

But the great thing is that our God forgives. He knows we fall sometimes and with His grace and guidance He helps us back up again.

So what do you say brothers and sisters in Christ? Let’s get back to the place we need to be! Let’s take the Name of the LORD and share it the way it’s intended to be! Let us use His Name in the honor He deserves!

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Spiritual Lessons I Learned…From The Game Of Golf: Part 3

Jeremiah 29:13 “And you will seek Me and find Me when you search Me with all your heart.”

“You will get better the more you practice.” When those words came from my golf instructor, it seemed logical to me. Over the past three months he has shown me the basic necessities to the golf swing, how to putt, chip, pitch, and get out of a bunker. By the end of each lesson, I understood the overall basics of what I was taught. But I realized that I would become rusty quickly if I didn’t practice what I learned.

Golf is not something you can just learn to do one time and you get as good as the other guys by osmosis. You have to practice. You have to spend time getting the muscle memory formed. You have to do things repetitiously in order for it to be of benefit to you. And here’s what I’ve found so far. The things I’ve spent time practicing are the very things I find myself getting better at! I used to struggle to hit my irons from the fairway. But after taking what I was taught by my golf instructor and hitting a ton of balls at the range and using the correct swing mechanics (which really is a natural swing), I’m hitting the ball better than I ever have!

Growing with God is NO DIFFERENT. How can we as believers think that since we’ve trusted Christ as Savior that God will impart all knowledge and wisdom to us…without spending time with Him? In order to know God more we must be willing to take the time to spend with Him and learn from Him. It’s something we should do over and over. It needs to become a part of who we are. We should never, ever, ever try to fit God into our schedule. We should fit our schedule around God. And it isn’t like we should just drop a prayer and read a chapter in the A.M. then go about our merry way. He is with us ALWAYS (Matthew 28:20). And if He is with you always, just like He’s with you right this very moment, shouldn’t we acknowledge His presence? We need to get into the repetition, the practice, the habit of telling God that we love Him, need Him, and desire to know more of Him. Think about it, Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:5).” That’s nothing of value…that’s producing the fruit of righteousness.

I’ve heard it said many times, “Right now, you are as close to God as you want to be.” Wouldn’t you like to be closer? We say we do, but do we do what we say?

I enjoy the game of golf, but not as much as I enjoy spending time with God. Don’t misunderstand me…I WASN’T ALWAYS THAT WAY. I’ve had my priorities messed up a few times. But by the grace of God, He led me back to Himself. And I have to tell you, this verse from Jeremiah 29 is true. He is faithful to keep His promises.

But there is a condition. We have to put something into it. We need to spend time at the range. We need to work on the different aspects of our game (our life) according to what the Great Instructor has taught us. And we have to give it our best, our all, our hearts.

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Spiritual Lessons I Learned…From The Game Of Golf: Part 2

Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

You have probably heard the saying, “Attitude is Everything.” Such is the case in the game of golf. Let me take you back a few years when I used to live in upstate New York. The company I worked for held a golf tournament at one of the more prestigious golf courses in the area. I was so excited! I really wanted to go out and play well. I wanted all my work buddies to know how good a golfer I was. Once the event was announced, I immediately began to “get in shape.” I not only wanted to play in that tournament, I wanted to win that tournament. Bad…real bad. I went on a strict diet and exercise program. I spent days upon days at the driving range (which was hard to do once the winter months came). But finally, the time came and the week of the tournament was on me. I got into my best “beat em” mode. I became focused on what it would feel like once I hoisted the trophy. I could imagine the rest of the field giving me a pat on the back after my round was over as I had pretty much obliterated the competition. I was dead set on winning.

That Saturday morning I remember like it was yesterday. A stray shower passed by early in the wee hours but the front passed by the time we got to the course. We were given our parings and out to the first tee we went. In my mind all I could see was my victory! I proudly walked up to the tee with a stone cold look on my face. I glared down the fairway, envisioning what my first shot would look like. As I stood on the first tee…all eyes were on me. I took my stance…addressed the ball…and started my backswing. Then came the downswing…SMACK!! My driver made contact with the ball. The only thing was…I “topped” it (meaning my club hit the top of the ball and the ball went into the ground rather that up in the air). My tee shot on that first tee went about 40 yards. From that point on…I had the worst golf outing I had ever had. I believe I shot upwards toward 130 (about 60 shots more than a golfer is supposed to). After it was all said and done…I came in dead last. The reason? My attitude.

You see, I didn’t go out to the course to enjoy the company that was with me. I didn’t go out to have fun. I wanted to win. I saw people as an obstacle to overcome. Numbers I had to jump over. I didn’t need comradery…I needed to win. Through that experience God taught me another valuable lesson: YOUR ATTITUDE MATTERS.

In today’s verse we see God calling us to do more than focus on ourselves. The outcome of His calling is to enjoy, help, and encourage other people (thus proving what the will of God is, which happens to be PERFECT). But if we have a bad attitude all the time, we won’t help anyone. Not even ourselves. Even if we think we can. A couple things we really should focus on here. The words “not be conformed,” and “be transformed” are all in what we Greek geeks call an imperative. Meaning it is a command. This command is from the author…who happens to be God. So God is commanding us to not be conformed to the world (be all about you and yours) and be transformed (changed into something new). The first place we must all start…you guessed it…our attitude.

What do you focus on? You or others? Keeping your word or taking care of what you want (not what you need) first? Tearing people down or building people up (no matter how hard it may seem)?

What kinds of words do you speak? Harsh, judgmental, cynical, depressing, and angry words? Or loving, caring, compassionate, benefit-of-the-doubt, uplifting words?

Do you see people as obstacles…or opportunities.

It all starts with our attitude.

So take moment to envision me on that first tee. Hard, cold, focused, and fixated toward winning. And ask yourself, “If that were me, what would happen when I swung the club?

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Spiritual Lessons I Learned…From The Game Of Golf: Part 1

Matthew 11:29 “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOU SOULS.”

A while back, I received some golf lessons for my birthday. It was only recently that I was able to begin to use them. For those that know me you probably know that I am an avid golfer. I love the sport. I love playing it, I like watching it, and I like learning more about how to get better at it.

A few weeks ago, I found myself asking the question, “What in the world does the game of golf have to do with Jesus?” It was then that I started out on a “quest” of sorts. The Lord, in His unbounding grace, began to show me SEVERAL key spiritual lessons for life from playing the game of golf. Even if you don’t play golf or even understand the sport…the spiritual gems God has given us through this game are incredible at best.

The first lesson He taught me, and the first one I will share with you is this: THE HARDER I TRY…THE WORSE IT GETS. What do I mean by that? In the game of golf, it is important that your body remain relaxed during the swing. If you attempt to “help the ball” by gripping the club tighter, swinging harder, or faster…bad things happen. Your mechanics will break down and you can actually lose power by gripping the club harder. This is because the tension that your arms create cause your body to tense and can take you out of a good alignment to hit the ball properly. The reason for this is  because in the game of golf, the swing should be natural. It should never be forced. When it is, things go wrong…quickly.

The same lesson I am finding painfully true in my life. As a believer, when I try to “help” God with His work, things tend to go haywire. The things in life that I think should go a certain way…rarely do. This is mainly because of the fact that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). But in the passage from this morning, Jesus is asking us to take HIS yoke upon us and learn from HIM. We aren’t called to take the world on our shoulders and find out what man says is the best way to do things (although this is a very common occurrence, even in churches today).

When I do relax and make my golf swing naturally, I hit the ball well…and…it brings me joy (yes…joy!!). Such is the case in my life. When I live by God’s Word and do what He calls me to do, I tend to live a…ready…joy filled life. One thing that I want to point out here. Notice at the end of this verse what Jesus says. When we live according to His ways, we find rest for our souls. You see, the soul is the part of you (because we all have a body, spirit, and soul – 1 Thess. 5:23) that still has that nasty old nature that is bent on pleasing self. Our spirits are made new because when we trust Christ we have the Holy Spirit sealed within us. But the battle rages between the soul and the spirit. This is why Jesus tells us that when we learn from Him we can find rest for our souls.

When we try so hard to do good all the time we tend to find all the flaws in our lives because they don’t match up with the outcome we want (like a good ball flight). But if we just trusted our swing…er…trusted God in our lives, we’ll begin to notice the times God has used us for bringing Him glory instead of the mistakes that we’ve made. Which are going to happen…because…after all…we’re human. And no human can be perfect, just like no golf swing will ever be perfect. But that’s a lesson for another day.

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Who Is A “LOST” Man…You’d Be Surprised…

Luke 19:10: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it. It’s been preached to millions. It’s the one common denominator that separates us from…them. You know them…the wretched unbelievers. (Although we may not say that out loud, if we’re honest with ourselves before the Lord we sometimes spend time in that camp.) It’s the call to save…the LOST man. DUN-DUN-DUUUUUN!!!! By saying “lost” we identify these folks as those who are not saved for they are lost. But there’s a problem with that statement. A lost man CANNOT be an unbeliever…meaning a lost man is not one who is not saved.

WHAT!!! But Jesus Himself said in Matthew 10:6, “but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He said it again in Matthew 15:24, “But He answered and said, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’” And look at Luke 19:10!! Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” A lost person has to be an unbeliever…right?

No…not really. First things first, in Matthew 10:6 and 15:24 Jesus said He came for the “lost” SHEEP of the house of Israel. Ask yourself this question…what’s a sheep? Psalm 95:7, and 119:176; and also Matthew 25:32 (and other Scriptures in the Bible) identify a sheep as a believer. He didn’t say He came to save the lost GOATS. So is Jesus saying He’s looking for unsaved believers?  No. He’s saying He’s seeking for those who have LOST THEIR WAY. Much like in Luke 15:4-6. Think about this for a moment. If a lost man is an unbeliever…what is he lost from? To be lost, you must have had to have been somewhere to begin with. And an unsaved person is nowhere for they are spiritually dead.

I say all this to make this point. First, if for centuries we have overlooked what a lost man truly is…what else in Scripture have we blindly agreed with man about? We must be diligent to spend time in God’s Word…one on One with the Master and allow His Holy Spirit to reveal Truth to us. In a society where the answers are at your fingertips at a moment’s notice, the art of spending quality time with the Lord is slowly (but surely) taking a back seat. And God should be second to NOTHING.

If all I’ve done is ruffled your feathers, I apologize. But if it’s brought you into the Word of God…I refuse to apologize. For it is there that we as believers must remain.

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I Didn’t Do It…

Genesis 3:12-13: And the man said, “The woman who You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

There’s lots of games that I am pretty good at. But there’s one game that I’m better at than others…it’s called The Blame Game. You see, I don’t really do anything wrong, it’s always someone else’s fault. It reminds me of something my Grandmother used to say to me when I was a child. Anytime I would think I was in the right she would say, “You’re all right, the world’s all wrong.” Interestingly enough, those words didn’t sink in until later in life.

We have this knack of not wanting to take responsibility for the decisions we make. It isn’t that we steward the money entrusted to us by God in a bad way…it’s Obama’s fault for not creating enough jobs. It isn’t that my kid is failing in school because he or she won’t buckle down and be responsible to study, it’s the teachers’ fault. I mean…isn’t it their job to teach my kid properly? Geesh!!

The whole idea of blaming others for our problems and our faults goes way back to the beginning. Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the Devil. God shook His head. When we read these verses there’s a little part of us that says, “Who are they fooling…this is God they are talking to.” Oh if we would only say those words before we make another excuse. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to own up to your mistakes. That makes me vulnerable. That makes me wrong. But God didn’t make us perfect once we trusted Christ for the first time. He left our old nature with us. Why? To rely on Him to overcome it. Each time we make a mistake and own up to it, we have the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson that will help us to grow and mature.

Look around you. Excuses are everywhere. And everybody is using them. The world is filled with them. But we aren’t from the world. We are from the Lord. We just happen to live in the world. We are supposed to be the example to follow. Just for a moment, think about what the world would be like if we as believers took responsibility for the things we did wrong, showed grace to one another, and forgave one another in love. The world may just be a better place.

“Ah…that’ll never happen.” I can hear someone say. “The world’s too far gone.” Hmmm…sounds like an excuse not to try…

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A Step In The Right Direction

Colossians 3:23-24: Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

Have you ever been called to do something and then let time, circumstances, and excuses get in the way of your calling? Yep, that’s me. I’ll be transparent with you for a moment. I am a procrastinator. I can make excuses with the best of them. When it comes to getting things done, or even started for that matter, I am the king of waiting. But a God thing happened this weekend. While preaching a sermon from Romans chapter 1, I realized that God was not only speaking to my audience, He was speaking to me!

You know that moment when words come out of your mouth and you think, “Man, that’s a good word! And it’s for me!” Yep…had that moment. God has been revealing to me that in my life I have some pretty bad habits. And He wants to help me break them. I made a list of the habits I have and wouldn’t you know it…procrastination is right at the top.

You see, I was led by the Lord to have the folks at Lighthouse Church, the body of believers I Pastor, search their hearts and find out what they are passionate about. God has given each of us gifts, talents, abilities, and passions regarding what He would have us do (with His leading…not on our own power) for His glory. One of my passions is…ready…writing. God led me to start this blog quite some time ago, and I was pretty faithful to post it…then…life happened. Or rather should I say, I let life happen to me. When I saw that I had left the blog for too long, I figured no one was missing it anyway…no big deal. But here’s the thing…if God called me to do it…do I really want to tell Him, “No.”

I opened this blog with a verse that I turned to this morning…rather fitting don’t you think? Tell me God doesn’t want to communicate with us. And this is what I want to share with you today: there are things in your life that God wants to work with you to overcome. You must first, agree that His ways are perfect and second, choose to change. It is possible!!! You don’t have to believe the lies that swirl in your head that say, “You’re too far gone. You’re too overweight. You’ll never get there.” LIES. All lies. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Or another way I’ve heard it said, “Once begun is half done.”

So what are you waiting for? I choose to use the talents, abilities, passions, and gifts that God has given me to glorify His great name. How about you? What are you passionate about?

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